Nobel Laurette, Professor Wole Soyinka has once again called for a national summit to address some of the socioeconomic and political challenges facing the country, saying that the current challenges are beyond the capacity of the government in power.
Prof Soyinka who spoke while playing host to some students on his 85th birthday celebration stated that more is expected from the government in tackling issues that affect the populace.
“The problems of this nation are beyond the solution that can be offered by this government, that’s the first admission; they have to stop thinking in partisan government.
“There has always been a major problem with successive governments. It’s easier on the state level to say that a particular state is definitely doing better than another state. But the central government has failed, that’s my view in the main.
“There is a minimal level which any government which has been elected to power must achieve to be considered a true representative of the people.”
He also called for an indaba or a national conference where all these challenges could be addressed for the good of all, making reference to security threats posed by cattle herders.
“Look at what’s happening today with the cattle all over the place, that’s a security issue which should never have reached this level.
“That singular act has resulted in hundreds of people being killed, farms were taken over; it has wiped away a lot of the positive achievements of the government.
They need to confront this nation as a habitation of human beings where very serious issues like economy, security, health, even threats of secession come up every day and convoke at the same time, a national conference, what I call an Indaba across all section which we will all meet and debate everything, including the economy of this nation.”
The nation has been brought to her knees. Internally, the blaring media testimony needs no augmentation. Beyond her borders, Nigeria is the tale of citizens designated pariahs of the global community for whom special dossiers are opened, and units of security agencies are specifically assigned.
Online transactions are programmed to reject basic usage once the word ‘Nigeria’ is inserted in the Data profile.
There are few nations left, within or outside the continental borders where – no matter the codeword – a Nigerian ‘room’ has not been designated. Her humanity litters the sand trails of the Sahara, it lines the Mediterranean sea-bed with the bones of a desperate generation, seeking ‘green pastures’.
Lines from my poems have been appropriated and embossed as epitaphs on the tombstones of Nigerians washed up the isle of Catania and accorded dignified burials by total strangers, certainly paid more respect than Nigerians themselves consider due to their own humanity. Other would-be migrants have been slaughtered by religious fundamentalists on the shores of Tripoli, while waiting for their precarious crossing on suicidal boats.
Yet others end up as commodities in the slave markets of Libya and Mauritania, hundreds recently rescued and airlifted – credit where credit is due! – repatriated by government.
It was not always thus. Numerous Nigerians believe that it need not remain so. There is always a choice to be made outside any presumptuous orders – in reality associations guaranteed to perpetuate social disorders and the politics of inequality. This is not the thinking of any one individual but of a large section of this populace.
If it were not, there would not have been a record number of nearly a hundred political groups aspiring to take over the reins of governance. We do not need any instruction however to estimate that several of the aspiring groups are mere plants, raised to sow confusion. It redounds to the credit of a few individuals, including some of the candidates themselves, who embarked on efforts to winnow down their own ranks, then seek a consensus candidate as standard bearer for the battle against the two political behemoths.
They did not succeed, but that is no cause for despair. They still deserve the gratitude of Nigerians for their uniquely principled efforts.
The CITIZEN FORUM – last heard of during the time of the dictator, Sani Abacha – was pulled out of retirement to join in their effort to arrive at peer consensus.
The Forum worked peripherally with them. It made no attempt – I stress this – no attempt whatsoever to impose its own preferences, but utilized material from the deliberations of at least four such selection groups. It remained on the fringe, except on invitation. Our mission today is simply to present the result of that effort by Citizen Forum which, I am especially gratified to reveal, coincides with my own personal preference.
The CF conclusion is obviously not binding on other groups or individuals involved in the exercise. May I take this opportunity to advise the public that neither Citizen Forum nor myself, belongs to any Third Force or other Consensus seeking councils by any other name. Please ignore any such attributions.
Over the past few months, we studied the careers, experiences and track records of most of the presidential aspirants, and most intensely those actually short-listed by the opposition parties themselves. Like millions of Nigerians, we watched the debates. I physically interacted with some of the acknowledged top contenders, in some cases several times.
We participated in HANDSHAKE ACROSS NIGERIA, where some candidates presented their briefs. Among others, I delivered a keynote address. We watched television interviews. We have exchanged notes with highly respected international Civil Servants. The drive towards Consensus among these dedicated groups sometimes took the form of test questionnaires to the aspirants, including items such as: ‘Who among the contestants would you choose, if you did not emerge as the ultimate preference?’
There was nothing complicated about assessment parameters: mental preparedness, analytical aptitude, response to the nation’s security challenges, economic grounding, grasp of socio-political actualities, including a remedial concern with the Nigerian image in foreign perception etc. etc. not forgetting a convincing commitment to governance and resource decentralization – commonly referred to as Restructuring.
The Forum rejected retrograde propositions of a political merry-go-round, which urge the electorate to choose this or that candidate in order to ensure “our turn” at the next power incumbency. Overall, the exercise was exacting but also – therapeutic.
It proved yet again that there is over-abundant leadership quality locked up in the nation, and that it is a collective shortcoming that the political space has not been sufficiently opened up to let soar such potential. Well, to cite the Chinese proverb: a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.
Let me reiterate: there is over-abundant, but stifled leadership material, and there can be no excuse, now that that potential of high quality is being manifested, for constricting the political space in a population that is nudging two hundred million. And that statement is of course specially addressed to those who took part in this exercise, those who deliberated opted out of it, some of whom were assessed anyway.
Such potential compelled us to exercise utmost rigour in what proved to be a most daunting exercise. The final determination however is – the flag-bearer of the Young Progressive Party – KINGSLEY MOGHALU.
I shall conclude with a somewhat interesting aside. I met Moghalu again on Monday morning, February 4th, and informed him of the Forum’s decision. During our discussion, I happened to ask him – what is the meaning of Moghalu. I was curious, because it had taken quite some time along the way for me to know to which ethnic group the name belonged.
He replied: it means – “Evil Spirit, Leave me Be!” Then I asked him for his other names and he spelt them out: “Actually my full names are Kingsley Chiedu Ayodele Moghalu”. Eyebrows raised, I asked, How come, Ayodele? A piquant revelation resulted: “Oh, that came from Mrs. Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti. She was friends with my father. Mrs Kuti was my godmother, and she gave me the name Ayodele”.
I was learning this for the first time. Moghalu’s CV is however in the public domain – his publications, record, and vision. The above is just a side-note that contains its own mild, thought-provoking instruction, for those who care to examine the distractions of ethnic equivocations, and the rigid mind-sets and stereotypes imposed on products of circumstance.
That immediate task being now completed, Citizen Forum will now join forces with those who pray, “Evil Spirit, leave us be!” – at least those who subscribe to the belief that political elections are not a Do-or-Die Affair!
Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka on Tuesday called on relevant authorities to check the wave of attacks being perpetrated by armed herdsmen across the country.
Professor Soyinka told journalists in Lagos that the phenomenon of herdsmen and farmers clashes is not new but an issue that has graduated to an alarming state in the last eight years.
He called for an organised resistance to the menace, describing the armed herdsmen as a new breed of Boko Haram and internal colonialists.
“The important thing is the consciousness of a need for organised resistance against the incursion of cows.
“In Ogun State, we have formed a sort of informal organisation called OSHA, Ogun State Hunters Association and we intend to collaborate with similar movements, the police and the military,” he said.
Commending state governments who have set up organisations to protect their citizens from attacks by the armed herdsmen, Soyinka said these organisations need to be taken seriously and well equipped to successfully disarm the armed herdsmen and prevent recurrent invasions.
“I wish to commend the governors in the various organisation which are now beginning to understand that they must start policing themselves.
“If we want to take the phenomenon seriously, it will be to ensure that anytime they see an armed herdsman, they report to the nearest police station. If by a certain time that group of armed herdsmen are not disarmed, then this organisation will move and disarm them.”
The Nobel laureate said further that he is not happy with ‘the body language’ of the government in handling the matter.
He also condemned the proposal for the establishment of cattle colony, insisting that ranching is the preferred option to resolve the crisis.
A former President of Nigeria, Mr Olusegun Obasanjo and Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, have declared their support for the moves to unite traditional rulers in Yorubaland by the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, Ojaja II.
They spoke at the one year anniversary of the ascension of throne by the Ooni and launching of a book – ‘Venerated’ – detailing his background and emergence.
Both Obasanjo and Soyinka asked the Ooni to ignore comments or moves that could spur disunity among people of Yoruba race.
Obasanjo said he had been monitoring the activities of the Ooni since his ascension to the throne, urging the monarch to take the unification agenda as a key factor for the development of the Yoruba nation.
“I have paid keen interest in the unification move of the Ooni since his ascension to the throne. It is commendable. We need someone like the Ooni to ensure that the Yoruba nation remained undivided,” he said.
“We Know What We Know”
Professor Soyinka, who also identified the need for people of Yoruba race to unite, maintained that one of the controversial matters among the Yoruba leaders remained the origin of Ile-Ife.
He also argued that anyone who considered Moremi as a traitor was not saying the “reality”, referring to a statement by another monarch, the Olugbo of Ugbo, few days ago.
He said, “There is controversy about the origin of someone whom we know as the origin of Yoruba race, kingdom, black race and humanity. The controversy may continue for long but the reality is that Kabiesi, the Ooni of Ife above all Ile-Ife is the cradle of humanity.
“We know what we know. We know what we accept and believe and that remains the fact. I have just gone to see the statue of Moremi and the controversy on Moremi, I have heard and learnt that some people said that Moremi, the heroine, is a traitor. That does not touch any part of reality of what Moremi is or was. And I don’t want you (Ooni) to spend any time or energy at all responding to counter or alternative theories. It is not necessary,” the Nobel Laureate told the Ooni.
According to him, the influence of Ile-Ife transcends Nigeria and Africa.
“If you walk on the street of Cuba or Brazil, somebody will tap you on your shoulder because they know you are black, they say ‘who are you?’ And you say ‘I am Osun, Ogun, Sango’. At the end, they will ask you how is the Ooni? It means the Yoruba race, culture is beyond this environment,” he added.
He, however, assured the Ooni of his support, saying, “I can see that you are sent on a mission of the unity of the Yoruba people wherever they are in any part of the world. We promise to work with you to bring that dream to reality.”
While emphasising the importance of peace and unity, the Ooni vowed not to stop his moves to make the Yoruba nation one.
He explained that his one-year of ascension to the throne was focused on tourism, agriculture and youth emancipation.
He said: “There must be peace in Yoruba nation and entire country. It is when there is peace among Yoruba leaders that we will progress and develop. Our peaceful co-existence is non-negotiable that is why we are preaching peace and I will continue to preach it.
“We won’t stop working and we will continue to seek partnership with the three tiers of government,” he added.
Moremi Statue of Liberty, the first of its kind in Nigeria, has been unveiled and dedicated to the economic liberation of African youths, by the Ooni of Ife, His Imperial Majesty Adeyeye Ogunwusi.
At the unveiling in Ile-Ife, the Ooni also admonished governments across the continent of Africa to adequately and meaningfully engage the youths in nation building.
The historic event witnessed by over 5,000 youths from all over Nigeria took place at the new world class heritage site that is 100% indigenously constructed by youths. It is located right inside a compound where the heroine of liberty lived thousands of years ago.
Nigeria Has Manpower
Ooni Ogunwusi did not only extol the virtues of Moremi Ajasoro, but also described the youths as the greatest accessories for the development of any nation who must be given first priority by the various African governments.
He also lamented the redundancy of the youths caused by the over patronage of the foreign goods and services.
“These Nigerian and African youths are naturally endowed and with the level of their education or training undergone, they are the materials needed to develop this country and the continent of Africa.
“It surprises me that governments across Africa still encourage capital flights by always giving the jobs to the foreigners at the expense of our youths several of whom are more qualified and competent to do the jobs.
“I am proud to say that this project is the first of its kind to be 100% indigenously constructed, all of them numbering about 200 are youths and all the materials used were sourced locally traceable to all the 774 local government areas in Nigeria.
“I want to stress that Nigeria has manpower that can create, construct, and build standard and original goods. I, therefore, appeal to the governments in Africa to empower them and give them the chance to display their capacities,” Ooni Ogunwusi said.
Extolling the virtues of the greatest African heroine of liberty, the African foremost monarch described her as the mother of liberty in the world saying that the Ife queen played a pivotal role in the liberation of mankind with the legacy of what a man can do, a woman can do better.
“She has successfully established the legacy of what a man can do, a woman can do better. Her influence cuts across the world, especially in America where her spirit of liberty was greatly considered while building their statue of liberty. Our own Moremi Ajasoro indeed brought the spirit of freedom to life,” Ooni Ogunwusi maintained.
The Ooni’s Director of Media, Comrade Moses Olafare, told reporters that Moremi Ajasoro was truly worthy of the celebration and urged the women all over the world to emulate her.
He also recognised the likes of Queen Aminat of Zaria, Fumilayo Randsome-Kuti, Margaret Ekpo and Mariam Makeba as the Moremi of the recent times.
“What we are doing today is like giving honour to whom is due because mama Moremi Ajasoro is worthy to be so celebrated having lived her life for the freedom of mankind by sacrificing her only child to the goddess of Esinmirin river in order to liberate the people of Oodua land from the then incessant invasions of faceless terrorists.
“I just hope that our women of today will emulate her just like Funmilayo Randsome-Kuti, Mariam Makeba, Queen Aminat, Margaret Ekpo did in their lifetime too,” Comrade Olafare said.
A British born Jamaican, Delighter Whitfield, who was at the event said the statue nearly brought tears to her eyes, realising that the statue of American liberty was a black woman before it was remoulded to represent a white woman. She described her experience at the event as unforgettable.
“This is so awesome, whaoooh! This king has made the Africans proud, Ooni has made me proud so proud. Am now very proud to be who I am. This really gives me a spirit of originality,” Whitfield screamed.
Professor Wole Soyinka’s daughter, Mrs Moremi Onijala, who also graced the occasion, said she believed in the life of Moremi for what she represented, saying that her father, Professor Soyinka, had named her Moremi with the hope that she would grow to lead in path of freedom the way Moremi Ajasoro did. “Apart from the emotional feeling that went through me because of the name I share with this greatest heroine of world’s liberty, seeing people revere what Moremi symbolises has really brought me home, as she is not just a heroine to the people of Yoruba land but also to the entire mankind.” Moremi Soyinka declared.
The 42 feet Moremi Statue of Liberty in Ile-Ife is the tallest statue in Nigeria and 3rd tallest in Africa envisioned by Ooni Ogunwusi and 100% indigenously constructed by a team of almost 200 Nigerian youths led by the sculptor who is the head of the Ooni’s Palace Art Gallery, Victor Badejo and the palace Engineer, Simeon Adeyinka who served as the site Engineer.
The African tallest statue is the 161feet African Renaissance Monument in Dakar, Senegal built by a North Korean company Mansudae Overseas Projects Limited while the 66feet Great Sphinx of Gisa in Egypt is the 2nd tallest statue in Africa.
Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, has condemned the call for the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) campaigners to end their actions.
Professor Soyinka says the attempt by security operatives to stop the protesters is not in the interest of democracy.
He stated his disapproval on Thursday at an event in Lagos State, southwest Nigeria.
The Nobel laureate insisted that the BBOG campaigners, who are campaigning for the rescue of the missing Chibok girls, were merely expressing their democratic rights rather than constituting public nuisance.
Procession To See President Buhari
Soyinka’s disapproval comes after security operatives prevented a peaceful procession of the BBOG campaigners from reaching the Presidential Villa.
At the side line of an event in Lagos State, Professor Soyinka told Channels Television that unlike the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), he was yet to find out what exactly the militants actually wanted.
He noted that the only thing he had seen was the unjust destruction of the nation’s oil facilities.
The Niger Delta Avengers have claimed responsibility for recent attacks on infrastructure in the oil rich region, crippling oil production and rendering the energy sector paralytic.
The Nigerian government has been asked to take more proactive steps to ensure the safety, education and improved welfare for the Nigerian child.
Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, and human rights activist, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), made the call on Sunday at a press conference in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital.
In his speech, Professor Soyinka condemned those who are weaving religion sentiment around child marriage.
“When you damage a child because of your own depravity, you ruin that child for life (and) traumatise that child. Whether you say you believe in any religion, you are committing a crime.
“We are against crimes committed (that are) defined by the constitution (and) the legal structure that binds us all together,” he said.
Professor Soyinka also asked the Police to take charge in securing the safety of all citizens, saying that they are the first call in curbing crime.
“They should be the first call when the child goes missing and they cannot abandon the job until they have restored the child to the rightful parent,” he said.
Playing on the Intelligence of Nigerians
Mr Falana on his part, was displeased with child marriage, stressing that it was illegal to marry a girl without the approval of the parent.
“The law says under 18, it is illegal to marry out anybody and in this case, whether in the north or in the south, you cannot marry out a girl without the approval of the parent” he said.
The Senior Advocate noted that those referring to religion are playing on the intelligence of Nigerians, adding that it was the responsibility of the government to cater for every underage child found hawking on the streets.
“Under the Child’s Right Act, every child must be put in school at the expense of the state and that applies to Lagos or any of the states in the south where we have children on the streets who are hawking all manners of goods,” he said.
Mr Falana attributed the street hawking to the high rate of abuses on the child such as kidnap and rape, calling on the citizens to retrieve all underage children that have been forced into illegal marriages.
Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, has asked the Federal Government of Nigeria to convene an emergency economic conference to save the nation from its current economic troubles.
Professor Soyinka made the call on Thursday when he visited the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.
“The economic condition of the nation of the people does not deteriorate overnight, something came before that deterioration. A certain prolonged and unchecked process of attrition which was neglected in the past is now knocking on the door,” he said.
Nobel laureate observed that Nigeria’s current economic challenge was the product of bad leadership over the years, stressing the need for an emergency economic conference where experts would brainstorm on the solutions.
“The consequences of past misgovernance in other words, is what we are undergoing right now, but at the same time, we must rely on our objective economic exploits to tell the government when it is going wrong. When it is taking certain measures which might just compound the problem and in the end make the people the ultimate victims.
“I agree with those who say the economy is bad (it is obvious) and I think that the President should call an emergency economic conference in which experts will be invited (such as) consumers, producers, labour union, university experts, professors and others. I think we need a rescue operation, bringing as many heads together and plotting the way forward,” he said.
Professor Soyinka also asked Nigerians to be patient with the current anti-corruption crusade of President Muhamadu Buhari.
Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, has emphasized the need for the country’s leadership to approach the agitations for Biafra in a more diplomatic way.
In an exclusive interview on our programme, Channels Book Club, the Nobel laureate said that every ethnic group should be made to feel like a part of the country and good old dialogue is the way to go.
“I wrote an article during the war that Biafra cannot be defeated. People misunderstood what I was saying.
“Once an idea has taken hold, you cannot destroy that idea. You may destroy the people, the carriers of that idea on the battle field but ultimately it’s not the end of the story.
“Let’s not take this position of ‘don’t even talk about it’, ‘under my watch this will never happen’, don’t say things like that. Go into that environment and ask ‘what is it that we can do to make you happy and feel part of this entity?’
“Listen to some other Biafrans and ask them why they want to stay (and say) ‘this is what we are ready to push as the overall authority in this area’.
“Don’t go around saying ‘the sovereignty of the country is indivisible, it’s non-negotiable’ all that kind of language will only make matters worse,” he said.
Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, has given an assessment of Nigeria’s 2015 elections, rating the elections slightly above average.
Soyinka spoke on Channels Television’s ‘Nigeria 2015’ live from his Abeokuta residence.
“I think I agree with the generality of people that its been slightly above average success. The organisation is not fully to blame for the lapses because in certain states people have just refused to learn to behave democratically,” he said.
He refereed to the election as “one of the best we have had so far”.
Asked to share his view on the campaign style of politicians towards the elections, Soyinka said, “The campaign has been intense, sometimes rather distastefully so, but there’s no question at all about the will of the people to make their voices heard and to make sure that democracy is given a fair chance of survival in Nigeria.”
Professor Wole Soyinka also made reference to the violence recorded in Rivers State, and called on INEC and security agencies to move against those who have attempted to spoil their efforts.
He said that this is an example of what a democratic campaign should not be about. “We are talking about a state where from all reports, about 56 people have been killed so far. That is unacceptable, that is barbaric, and the miscreants have got to be absolutely pursued and punished.”
He cited reports of missing result sheets at polling units as one that must not be condoned by INEC as it is disrespectful to citizens who have “queued up in the rain printing their fingers”.
He condemned a situation where voters queue all day, in the rain and under the sun, to get accredited and vote, only for some people to sit down somewhere and complete the result sheets in their favour.
“They are telling us we are stupid for queuing up.
“INEC has the responsibility to cancel the result from any polling boot where the documentation is incomplete,” he added.
The Nobel Laureate commended the peace accord signed by the main presidential candidates, saying it was a an excellent example. He also gave a pass mark to INEC in the conduct of the 2015 elections.
However, he took a swipe at the players in the other levels of leadership where they have made a mess of the peace accord and to whom the pact reached by the President Goodluck Jonathan and General Muhammadu Buhari, are mere piece of paper.
Soyinka On Alleged Ekiti Rigging Saga
He cited the example of those who played various roles in the alleged rigging of the governorship election in Ekiti State in 2014, saying it was a display of utter brigandage by those who are supposed to lead Nigerians in their various capacities.
He also condemned the seeming silence by the relevant authorities over the allegations made against the respective government officials who took part in what he termed the conspiratorial meeting to rig the Ekiti elections.
Prof. Soyinka demanded an investigation into the Ekiti saga and that those found culpable should be dealt with according to law as a way of making Nigerians believe that the system works for them.
On voter awareness, Prof. Soyinka said while the media has been doing a lot in terms of getting Nigerians involved in the electoral and democratic process, INEC should tap the opportunity afforded by the creative industry to get this message to the entire populace.
On the President-elect’s Priority
Prof. Soyinka listed power, security, unemployment, as some of the crucial areas that the incoming administration of General Buhari should address.
In his words, “We need an infrastructural revolution”. He suggested that the General Buhari should be given one year before being assessed on his performance.
The Chairman and CEO of Channels Television, Mr John Momoh, would be honoured with the Leadership Award at the 2014 Planet Africa Awards Gala in Canada.
The 2014 Planet Africa Awards gala is scheduled for November 8 at the Grand Victorian Convention Centre, 175 Derry Road in Mississauga.
The awards’ programme seeks to identify and recognise deserving individuals, organisations, businesses and agencies that make a profound difference in the society, at the national and international levels.
Since 2004, the awards programme has honoured many achievers, with the Red Carpet event bringing together people of African origin and others of goodwill from around the world, to celebrate leadership and excellence in Toronto, Canada.
Mr John Momoh, prior to starting Channels Television, which he co-founded with his wife, Olusola Momoh in 1992, had worked in various capacities as News Anchor, Senior Reporter and Senior Producer for Radio Nigeria and the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).
He has received many recognition and awards including; Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) from the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Nigerian Information Society.
Mr John Momoh is a member of the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences based in New York and has served as a Juror for the International Emmy Awards. He is the Chairman of the League of Nigerian Broadcasters.
Also to be honoured at the 2014 Planet Africa Awards is the Group Chief Executive of Oando PLC, Mr Wale Tinubu, who bags the Enterprise Award.
Oando holds interests in licenses for the exploration, development and production of oil and gas assets located onshore, swamp fields and offshore. Oando is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) in Canada. Tinubu serves on the Board of various blue chip companies as Chairman and Director.
He has received many awards and recognition. The World Economic Forum named him Young Global Leader for his achievements as a top executive under 41. He received the Business Leader of the Year Award from African Business Magazine; a Commonwealth Business Council award in 2010; and the African Business Leader Award from Africa Investor in 2011. Forbes Magazine has referred to him as King of African Oil and one of Top 10 Greatest Living Business Leaders in Africa
Marci Ien will be receiving the Media Award. She is the Co-Host of Canada AM, CTV’s national morning show. She was Canada AM’s News Anchor from 2003 to 2011. Ien is one of only five alumni to be inducted into the Ryerson University Radio and Television Arts 2013 Wall of Fame. Born in Toronto to parents from Trinidad, her charity work has seen her travel across the globe. In 2008, she traveled to Sierra Leone on behalf of Journalists for Human Rights, where she met with reporters and led training workshops.
Ien also works with World Vision with whom she traveled to Sri Lanka to report on the 2004 Tsunami. Ien’s first television job was on the Canadian children’s television series Circle Square at the age of 10. A great role model, especially in the African Canadian community, she has won many awards for her professional achievements and community impact.
Frances-Ann Solomon will be receiving Heritage Award. She was born in England of Trinidadian parents. She began her professional life at the BBC in England, where she built a successful career as a producer first with BBC Radio, then with BBC television drama. She also produced and directed independent films through her company Leda Serene Films. In 1999, she moved her company to Canada, where she continued to write, direct, and produce films, television programs, theatre plays, and new media projects.
In 2001, she founded Caribbean Tales, a registered Canadian charity that produces, exhibits and distributes educational Caribbean-themed multimedia projects. The Caribbean Tales Media Group now includes the annual Toronto-based Caribbean Tales International Film Festival, the Caribbean Tales Market Incubator Program for filmmakers, Caribbean Tales-Flix, and Caribbean Tales-TV, a video on demand platform. In 2010, she also founded Caribbean Tales Worldwide Distribution, the first and still only full service film distribution company in the English-speaking Caribbean, dedicated to the marketing and sales of Caribbean-themed films.
Liben Gebremikael bags the Development Award and he is the first and current Executive Director of TAIBU Community Health Centre. TAIBU provides primary healthcare and health promotion programs and services to people of African descent in the Greater Toronto Area. TAIBU plays a significant role in addressing various barriers to access and health disparities faced by the Black, other racialized and marginalized communities. Originally from Ethiopia, Gebremikael has worked as a Social Worker, Child & Family Therapist, Project Coordinator, Therapeutic Group Facilitator and Manager with various primary care and non-for-profit organizations in the United Kingdom and in Canada. He is the recipient of the 2012 Emerging Leaders Award from the Association of Ontario Health Centres.
Bishop (Dr.) Canute Blake gets Lifetime Achievement Award. He is the first Black person in the history of the Church of God in Canada to hold the position of Superintendent. A native of Jamaica, he also served as Administrative Bishop of the Eastern Canada Region. A member of the Advisory Board for the African-Canadian Christian Network (ACCN), he can be seen on the Invasion of Hope Telecast, which airs weekly on Vision TV across Canada. In 2007, Dr. Blake traveled to Uganda with a Team from New Life Covenant Centre (NLCC), where he serves as Senior Pastor, for an outreach.
NLCC was instrumental in helping Mercy Kindergarten, a school for orphans to be built. Today, the school continues to be supported by NLCC. Bishop Blake travels to Africa for humanitarian relief missions supported by NLCC. He is a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal and other honours.
Dr. Victor Obasuyi will receive the Science & Technology Award. He is an Optometrist with a post-graduate degree from the University of Waterloo and a diploma in Pharmaceutical Research and Development at the Toronto Institute of Pharmaceutical Technology. He was mentored by the late Dr. J. Sewell, one of Canada’s finest eye doctors.
In 2005, Obasuyi took over Dr. Sewell’s practice after he succumbed to cancer. The practice caters to over 100 patients a day. As one of the pioneer foreign-trained optometrists accredited in Ontario, he has given back by advancing the careers of foreign-trained Optometrists. He has served on the Board of Southern College of Optometrists in Memphis, Tennessee in the USA as an Adjunct Internship Clinic Supervisor. He is the Founder of Obasuyi Holdings, a real estate venture with properties that boast more than 40 tenants in the City of Waterloo alone.
Rosemary Sadlier bags the Marcus Garvey Memorial Award. She is the President of the Ontario Black History Society (OBHS). The OBHS supported efforts that led to the successful pursuit of the declaration of February as Black History Month in Canada. The OBHS also advocated for the recognition of August 1st as Emancipation Day. Sadlier has served as Vice Chair of the Discipline Committee of the Council of Early Childhood Educators and Member of the Canada Post Stamp Advisory Board. An Order of Ontario recipient, she is the author of 6 books. A recipient of the Good Citizenship Award and Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal, Sadlier is dedicated to social justice as well as educating and empowering others, regarding African Canadian history.
Frank Walwyn gets the Professional Excellence Award. He has been named on numerous occasions as one of Canada’s top lawyers in the area of Corporate and Commercial Litigation in ‘The Best Lawyers® in Canada’ list. He is a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Ryerson University’s G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education. He is licensed to practice law in Canada and is also a member of the bars of Anguilla, Antigua, Barmuda, Barbados, Belize, the British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Grenada as well as St. Kitts and Nevis. A prominent member and former President of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers (CABL), he is a recipient of The Law Society of Upper Canada’s Lincoln Alexander Award and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
Dr. Don Kilby will be receiving the Nelson Mandela Humanitarian Award. He is the Medical Director of the University Of Ottawa Health Services (UOHS). He is also the Founder and President of the Canada Africa Community Health Alliance (CACHA) and the Founder of the Ottawa HIV Primary Care Group. A strong advocate for access to healthcare for marginalized populations, he has chaired many advisory committees, including the Federal Ministerial Council on HIV/AIDS as well as the Ontario Advisory Committee on HIV/AIDS. Dr. Kilby has built strategic alliances between Canadian and African community based organizations and governments to provide medical care and treatment, as well as community development in rural Africa. In 2006, he received the Ontario Award for Good Citizenship.
Lanre Tunji Ajayi will get the Visionary Award. She has been an advocate and one of the driving forces behind the establishment of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of Canada (SCDAC), where she serves as President. SCDAC is a national body addressing sickle cell matters in Canada. SCDAC advocated for the inclusion of sickle cell disease in newborn screening programs in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Lanre is the Co-Founder of All Naturals Cosmetics, which specializes in natural skincare products available in various retail stores; including Wal-Mart and Shoppers Drug Mart. In 2005, she engaged All Naturals Cosmetics in establishing the Sickle Cell Awareness Group of Ontario (SCAGO), to create awareness and raise funds for sickle cell research.
Hollywood actress Vanessa Morgan and model Celina Mziray get the Rising Star Award. They are sisters, who were finalists on CTV’s The Amazing Race Canada’. Their stamina and spirit of perseverance not only took them to the finale, but has made them succeed in their careers and endeavours. Vanessa featured in “Frankie & Alice” alongside Halle Berry. She was in the Disney Channel and Teletoon film “My Babysitter’s A Vampire”. She acted in the Disney Channel series “Ant Farm”; CTV’s Degrassi, “The Next Generation” and MTV’s “Finding Carter”. A successful model, Celina is the owner of BlackCrowPR and a huge promoter of a healthy lifestyle and spiritual well-being. She has been in fitness competitions and is a supporter of women having a positive as well as a healthy mind and body.
Moses Pratt bags the Volunteer Award. He has been an educator for over 25 years. He is the founder and President of Global Community Alliance, an organization dedicated to fostering diversity and promoting unity. Global Community Alliance organizes an annual gala that brings together VIPs in Ottawa, including the mayor, ministers, senators, members of parliament, school board officials and the city’s diverse population to network and promote harmony. Pratt is also a founding member of both the Nigerian Canadian Association in Ottawa and Isokan Yoruba. He readily participates in events organized by various communities and is politically engaged in his electoral riding of Ottawa-Orleans. Pratt and his wife Kelly have supported and participated in many community initiatives. They continue to give of their time and resources to make a difference.
Dwayne Morgan bags Renaissance Award. He is a poet, spoken word artist and motivational speaker. He is the founder of Up From The Roots Entertainment, an organization that promotes the artistic contributions of African Canadian and urban artists. Morgan is the organizer of the annual spoken word concerts: When Brothers Speak, When Sisters Speak and the Toronto International Poetry Slam. He has served as host of Diasporic Music, a spoken word show on CKLN FM, and is an advice columnist in the daily newspaper, 24 Hours. An author of six books, he worked with Driftwood Studios on Three Knocks, a film on his domestic violence poem of the same name, which premiered at the 2006 Reel World Film Festival. He is a tireless advocate for positive social, economic and political transformation.
Yemisi Ogunjimi will receive the Academic Achievement Award. She was raised by a father who was an educator and placed a high premium on academics. She has lived up to her family’s expectation. In primary school, she emerged as the best student in the common entrance examination in her school. She graduated with honours in Biochemistry from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria and attended Toronto Institute of Pharmaceutical Technology (TIPT), studying Quality Control and Quality Assurance. Ogunjimi graduated from York University’s accounting program in Canada as an exceptional student in the faculty. This achievement was recognized in a Toronto Star newspaper feature. Her Bachelors degree was in the Summa Cum Laude division, the highest a student could receive. Ogunjimi has a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) designation. She currently works at York University, is a highly sought-after gospel music artist and songwriter.
Eddie Bullen gets Entertainment Award. He is a multitalented pianist, songwriter, arranger and producer. From his first album ‘Nocturnal Affair’ to his most recent ‘Havana Nights’, Bullen gives his audience a taste of contemporary jazz, flavoured with Caribbean and Latin rhythms. He has worked with major Canadian, Caribbean and American artists like FeFe Dobson, Deborah Cox, Glen Lewis, SWV, Anslem Douglas, Byron Lee, David Rudder and Dee Dee Bridgewater. He also composes and arranges for City TV, YTV, and Wine TV Australia. Bullen has produced over 150 albums and is working on several new ventures through his record company Thunder Dome Sounds and his publishing company QDB music. He has served as Artistic and Musical Director on numerous projects. A native of Grenada, his two sons Quincy and Tre-Michael are following his footsteps in music.
Past recipients of the awards include the President and Managing Director, General Motors Canada, Kevin Williams; Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka; Fairness Commissioner and Former Minister, Hon. Jean Augustine; Nollywood actors, Majid Michel and Zach Orji; Chairman of Grace Foods, Douglas Orane; Olympic Gold Medalist, Daniel Igali; Hollywood Star, Isaiah Washington and South Africa’s legendary singer, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, among others.
Headliners and keynote speakers are the daughter of Civil Rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and CEO of the King Centre, Dr. Bernice King, as well as the son of the legendary Marcus Garvey, Dr. Julius Garvey.